Selecting coral species for reef restoration

Madin, Joshua S., McWilliam, Michael, Quigley, Kate, Bay, Line K., Bellwood, David, Doropoulos, Christopher, Fernandes, Leanne, Harrison, Peter, Hoey, Andrew S., Mumby, Peter J., Ortiz, Juan C., Richards, Zoe T., Riginos, Cynthia, Schiettekatte, Nina M.D., Suggett, David J., and van Oppen, Madeleine J.H. (2023) Selecting coral species for reef restoration. Journal of Applied Ecology, 60 (8). pp. 1537-1544.

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1. Humans have long sought to restore species but little attention has been directed at how to best select a subset of foundation species for maintaining rich assemblages that support ecosystems, like coral reefs and rainforests, which are increasingly threatened by environmental change.

2. We propose a two-part hedging approach that selects optimized sets of species for restoration. The first part acknowledges that biodiversity supports ecosystem functions and services, and so it ensures precaution against loss by allocating an even spread of phenotypic traits. The second part maximizes species and ecosystem persistence by weighting species based on characteristics that are known to improve ecological persistence—for example abundance, species range and tolerance to environmental change.

3. Using existing phenotypic-trait and ecological data for reef building corals, we identified sets of ecologically persistent species by examining marginal returns in occupancy of phenotypic trait space. We compared optimal sets of species with those from the world's southern-most coral reef, which naturally harbours low coral diversity, to show these occupy much of the trait space. Comparison with an existing coral restoration program indicated that current corals used for restoration only cover part of the desired trait space and programs may be improved by including species with different traits.

4. Synthesis and applications. While there are many possible criteria for selecting species for restoration, the approach proposed here addresses the need to insure against unpredictable losses of ecosystem services by focusing on a wide range of phenotypic traits and ecological characteristics. Furthermore, the flexibility of the approach enables the functional goals of restoration to vary depending on environmental context, stakeholder values, and the spatial and temporal scales at which meaningful impacts can be achieved.

Item ID: 79538
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2664
Keywords: ecosystem services, hedging, marginal returns, phenotypic traits, reef corals, restoration, species selection
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC FL180100036, ARC LP160101508, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2024 02:21
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 50%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 50%
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